Left to right: Book - Sunny G's Series of Rash Decision; Author - Navdeep Singh Dhillon

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Sunny G’s Series of Rash Decisions by Navdeep Singh Dhillon is a wacky debut young adult romp that takes place in and around Fresno during an over-the-top night for the title character. Sunny Gill’s presence is expected at two conflicting events that evening: the barsi for his older brother and the Snollygoster Soiree where his heavy metal band is scheduled to perform for a gathering of other fan fiction fanatics. Instead, Sunny chooses to fill with a series of rash decisions the notebook his brother Goldy left him.

Decisions don’t come easily for Sunny, but he’s determined to make some pretty reckless and impulsive ones. Goldy, who died of alcohol poisoning a year earlier, was gay, alcoholic, carefree, and cool. Sunny is the complete opposite, but he bravely makes his first rash decisions:

  1. Change face. (He shaves his beard, cuts his hair, discards his turban.)
  2. Go to prom. (He wants the “Very Important Prom Experience” even without a date.)

At the prom, Sunny’s self-rebranding and nerves-enhanced stutter are mercilessly mocked, throwing the Experience into the toilet. The night worsens when Mindii Vang, a Hmong teen with a reputation for making impetuous decisions herself, steals Sunny’s crocheted pouch (part of his cosplay garb he wears to prom), hops on her motorcycle, and speeds off into the night.

Desperate to retrieve his pouch—which contains his phone, cash, student I.D., and Goldy’s notebook—Sunny manages to track Mindii down. She then leads Sunny on an all-night adventure to strange and wonderful places he’s never been. In his quest to make rash decisions, Sunny meets people who impact his outlook on himself and his future. And, on the definite plus side, his escapades are sprinkled with a dash of unexpected romance.

 The book is, admittedly, targeted to a readership of teens who love cosplay, swoon over Avatar: The Last Airbender, and endlessly drop pop and fan-fic references (there are mentions of Bollywood films, too). Nevertheless, there are two significant topics that make Dhillon’s debut YA novel a should-read.

The novel is populated with characters from several diverse communities through language, culture, location, and food. These characters from the Hmong, Ghanaian, and Nigerian communities and across the gender and sexuality spectrums, are seamlessly woven into Sunny Gill’s story. Sunny, himself, is an awkward-but-amusing narrator that is, according to the author in an interview, “a super nerdy, cosplaying, crochet and Bollywood-obsessed Punjabi-Sikh teen, who is trying to figure himself out while dealing with grief and an uncertain post-high school future.” Punjabi-Sikh teen representation in young adult literature is overdue and duly celebrated.

However, the bedrock of “Sunny G” lies with the honest portrayal of a teen dealing with ableism and bullying, racism and xenophobia, and most importantly, the effects of alcoholism and addiction on families. Where Dhillon’s storytelling shines is in the inclusion of grief. Pure and perplexing, simple and complex, sibling and generational grief is a substantial part of Sunny and Mindii. Sadly, Sunny says about his family’s loss, “We contort ourselves into all kinds of positions to avoid saying what we’re really thinking or feeling.”

Sunny and Mindii bond by sharing their grief through stories and memories about Sunny’s big brother and Mindii’s beloved grandmother during casual conversation, extending to each other the courtesy of listening, speaking, and responding without one or the other’s feelings being dwarfed. Thus, the teens feel free to reveal their hurts, losses, and discoveries. Dhillon also gives Sunny room to express his most profound emotions through his music, fueled by his family’s “deafeningly silent grief.”

One of Sunny’s social media posts offers the heart behind his series of rash decisions: “Don’t just let life pass you by wondering what if. BE the IF.”


Jeanne E. Fredriksen lives in both Carolinas where she is a long-time contributor to India Currents and a Books for Youth reviewer for Booklist magazine/American Library Association. She also is a member of SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators), and NCWN (North Carolina Writers’ Network). 


 

Jeanne E. Fredriksen

Jeanne E. Fredriksen lives in beautiful Central North Carolina where she is a long-time contributor to India Currents and a long-time Books for Youth reviewer with Booklist magazine/American Library Association....